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A Secret About Mediators

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

I hope not to get drummed out of the mediation profession for revealing this.

Mediators strive to be neutral, or as Ken Cloke so eloquently puts it, “omni-partial.”

But mediators are human, too.

If you come to mediations prepared, respectful and open-minded, you will go a long way towards gaining the mediator’s respect. Should that make a difference? No. Will it make a difference? No guarantees, but it might just be worth your while.

Here’s why. Years ago, as a young lawyer, I was selected as a juror in a criminal case. I think I was left on the jury because I was so young. (The lawyers figured I didn’t know enough do any harm in the jury room. Turns out, they were right.)

I learned an enormously important lesson during my jury service. I liked the prosecutor. I didn’t like the defense attorneys. It should not have had an influence in my decision-making about the case. But it did. That’s when I realized that as a trial lawyer, I wanted to be the nicest person in the courtroom.

The same holds true for mediations. As I lawyer representing a client, I want to be the nicest lawyer at the mediation. Why? Because I am more likely to persuade…not only the other side, but the mediator, too.

Robert Cialdini, a social psychologist at Arizona State University, has written the definitive book on persuasion which includes a chapter on likeability called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It includes a chapter on likeability.

I’ve written prior posts on likeability here and here.

At your next mediation, try being likeable. Let me know the result.


Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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